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Written Statements

Volume 626: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2017

Written Statements

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Communities and Local Government

Grenfell Tower: Support

I am announcing today that I am intervening in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The scale of the recovery effort needed on the Lancaster West estate in the months to come cannot be underestimated. Support to survivors, the families and friends of those who lost their lives and residents in the wider community must and will be ongoing. The challenge of providing that support is and will continue to be significant. I want to help the council meet that challenge.

The immediate response to the disaster is being co-ordinated by the Grenfell response team, headed up by John Barradell. He is ably supported by a number of colleagues drawn from London Councils, the wider local government sector including RBKC, the voluntary sector, police, health and fire services as well as central Government. Their expertise and hard work is making a huge difference. However this is a temporary measure to deal with the immediate need.

As well as providing that immediate support, we must have an eye to the future. This intervention is putting in place the foundations that will support the longer-term recovery. I am therefore setting out my plans for strengthening the structures that will support that recovery effort.

Following an agreement with RBKC, I will appoint an independent Recovery Taskforce with the experience and skills to advise the council on the longer-term recovery needs. The remit of the Recovery Taskforce is to provide advice and practical and strategic support to RBKC. It will work alongside the council to make sure that they have the manpower, expertise and resources necessary to take on the longer-term recovery work beyond the immediate civil emergency response.

The Recovery Taskforce will report to me directly, and will be made up of experienced and senior people with a track record in delivery, including from local government. I will announce details of the chair and membership of the Recovery Taskforce shortly. The Recovery Taskforce will be in place for as long as is required.

The Recovery Taskforce will consider all aspects of the recovery operation but will have a special focus on housing, regeneration and community engagement. It will also consider the governance of the council and the way that it operates to ensure it is able to provide effective leadership through trying and difficult circumstances.

[HCWS27]

Site Assessment Indemnity

On 12 October 2016, a written ministerial statement and minute were laid before Parliament, which set out that DCLG would be providing an indemnity to the official receiver (OR) of the former SSI steel works and would be giving the same indemnity to the South Tees Site Company (STSC) once it was established.

The indemnities are to facilitate the undertaking of site assessments at the former SSI site. These site assessments will help inform: costs to decommission the site, costs to regenerate the site and provide the necessary due diligence to enable the mayoral development corporation to take forward the regeneration of the area.

Following no objections the indemnity was given to the OR on 20 October 2016. The STSC is a wholly owned BEIS company that came into being on 1 November 2016 and was set up in order to keep the former SSI site safe and secure. On 26 January 2017 the DCLG Permanent Secretary wrote to the Public Accounts Committee and DCLG Select Committee setting out that the indemnity was being given to STSC.

The original indemnities set out that the site assessments would be commissioned by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). From here on, the site assessments will be commissioned directly by STSC in order to ensure greater efficiency and to give STSC greater control. The changing of the lead body taking forward the site assessments does not change the risk profile to HMG; it simply changes the lead body and the way the assessments will be procured. While the next phase of site assessments are put in place the current indemnities will continue, however, they will be withdrawn following the completion of the HCA phase of work.

Therefore the Government will be reissuing updated indemnities to the OR and STSC to continue to indemnify both bodies against all liabilities, costs, expenses, damages and losses suffered or incurred by them that are arising out of the site assessments.

It is not possible at this stage to accurately quantify the value of such indemnity. HMG has considered the risks of this indemnity and I believe the likelihood of such indemnities being called upon is low. The indemnity is limited to liabilities arising as a consequence of the site assessments. If the liability is called upon, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal Supply procedure.

As a matter of record a departmental minute for both Houses explaining the procedure followed and containing a description of the liabilities undertaken can be found as an online attachment. I can also confirm that I have made and laid an order to establish a mayoral development corporation, the South Tees Development Corporation.

The attachment can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-07-05/HCWS28/

[HCWS28]

Home Department

Grenfell Tower Fire

I wish to inform the House that I am today introducing a policy on leave to remain outside the immigration rules for residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk.

The Government have been clear that their priority is to ensure that victims of this tragedy get the access they need to vital services, irrespective of immigration status. The Home Office will not conduct immigration checks on survivors and those coming forward to provide information to assist the authorities in their enquiries. However, we recognise that some foreign nationals directly affected by the fire may not wish to engage with the authorities due to concerns about their unresolved immigration status, or if their status is about to expire. I am therefore announcing today that those individuals directly affected by the Grenfell Tower fire who contact the Home Office via a specified process will be given a period of limited leave to remain in the UK with full access to relevant support and assistance. This will be done by using discretionary powers to grant leave to remain outside the immigration rules for a temporary period of 12 months and without a condition precluding recourse to public funds. I will place a copy of the policy document in the Library of the House.

This period of leave will provide survivors with the time to deal with the extremely difficult circumstances in which they find themselves and start to rebuild their lives while considering their future options, as well as to assist the police and other authorities with their enquiries about the fire. No fees will be charged by the Home Office in respect of cases granted leave under the policy.

Everyone affected by this tragedy needs reassurance that the Government are there for them at this terrible time and we will continue to provide the support they need to help them through the difficult days, weeks and months to come.

The policy will be kept under review and will remain in place until 31 August 2017.

[HCWS29]

Transport

Transport Investment

We have made significant progress in realising our ambitious plans for transport infrastructure, built on the investment of over £61 billion in the five-year period to 2021. We have taken big decisions on transformational projects like HS2 and our preferred option for a new runway at Heathrow, and are part way through delivering major investment programmes to maintain and upgrade our road and rail networks.

I am today publishing a Transport Investment Strategy, setting out how we will build on that progress and—through the investment decisions we go on to take—how we will respond realistically and pragmatically to today’s challenges and deliver a transport network that works for everyone.

The decisions we take now will shape the transport network for decades to come and help to determine the contribution that transport can make to our national success and wellbeing. The Transport Investment Strategy describes what we are trying to achieve through our investment in transport infrastructure, the priorities and propositions that will guide future investment decisions, the institutional frameworks within which those decisions will be taken, and the actions we are taking to help meet our ambitions.

I want our investment to create a more reliable, less congested and better connected transport network that works for the users that rely on it; to build a stronger, more balanced economy by enhancing productivity and responding to local growth priorities; to enhance our global competitiveness by making Britain a more attractive place to trade and invest; and to support the creation of new housing.

As we shape and deliver the balanced investment programmes that deliver these objectives, we will be guided by a set of priorities and propositions that put the needs of transport users at the heart of decision making, whilst getting the best value out of the network and our investment, retaining a resolute focus on delivery and remaining adaptable in the face of change.

As part of the strategy I am announcing my intention to launch a consultation on the creation of a new “Major Road Network” for the most important local authority A roads. This would mirror the success of the Strategic Road Network which has created planning and funding certainty for motorways and major dual carriageways, and would mean our most important local authority A roads were actively planned and managed to deliver a better service for drivers. As part of this consultation, we will make proposals to allocate a proportion of the national roads fund to the MRN.

I am also determined that, through our investment, we should go further in helping to raise prosperity and productivity across the country. In the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, the Government committed to taking account of the balance of spending per head between different regions. In addition, we will develop a new assessment standard that will require transport investment programmes to be judged on how they contribute towards the creation of a more balanced economy, as part of the assessment of their strategic case.

I have placed copies of the document in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS26]

Work and Pensions

DWP Estates

DWP is today confirming the future of its estate, including jobcentres and back-office sites.

On 26 January 2017 DWP tabled a statement outlining proposals for changes to its estate, which will come into effect from 31 March 2018 when the current PFI contract with Telereal Trillium expires.

Today’s announcement confirms that the majority of those proposals will go ahead. Some smaller jobcentres will merge with larger ones, and others will be co-located with local government premises. It will mean that DWP will be able to offer a more efficient service, while delivering good value for the taxpayer, saving over £140 million a year for the next 10 years.

The support provided to jobseekers will be further strengthened this year as more work coaches are recruited in every nation and region of the UK.

The plans reflect the fact that eight out of 10 claims for jobseeker’s allowance and 99% of applications for universal credit full service claims are now made online. This means that DWP buildings are used much less with 20% of the estate currently underutilised.

Following more detailed planning work and further discussions with staff, public consultations and feedback from stakeholders, the outcomes for some sites have been revised. The list in the online attachment (DWP Estates Announcements 5 July 2017) details where such a revision has been made. There are a small number of sites where commercial negotiations are ongoing. The Department is unable to announce these plans until this process is complete. These sites are also in the list.

In January, we were unable to announce our proposals for some offices because negotiations with landlords had not been concluded. We are now in a position to provide an update on proposals for these offices and they are listed in the online attachment.

For the vast majority of DWP offices there will be no change in location. Where we are closing a site, we will take all possible precautions to minimise disruption for customers. Vulnerable people will continue to receive home visits and postal claims where it is appropriate to do so.

The attachment can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-07-05/HCWS30/.

[HCWS30]